The wonderful thing about the internet (somewhat like Tiggers) is that you can look up all manner of people, school friends, work colleagues, people you loathed, anyone really, from the past and find out what they are up to.
OK, so Helen Fielding, in the year above me at school, isn’t too hard to find. And given that I am not a fan of chick lit, romance or Pride and Prejudice, Ms Jones’ Diary was not my favourite read, and the film didn’t go down well either.
Hopefully you shouldn’t find me in an internet search as I haven’t done anything remotely famous like Helen.
But publishing books and remaining in the newspaper industry does make you more track-down able.
The last I heard from a former reporting colleague was when he wrote to me from California saying that he was working in a lab as a technician, and no longer considered himself a journalist. He doubted he’d return to our profession.
On one of those inspired days, ie one where I had twenty other million things to do but was messing around on the internet, I decided to look up former journalist colleagues. Those I had loved, and those who I wasn’t so fond of. This one fell into both categories.
To my amazement, he was easily found. Instead of spending the rest of his life in a lab in sunny CA he had returned to our grimy gloomy home town.
Not only that, but he’d gone on to become editor of the paper where he first started, and then set up his own newspaper. Wow! Got to admire the entrepreneurial spirit I never knew he had. Always seemed more interested in rugby. (He played for Great Britain, and in the USA and Australia – Australia?! He’d never been there when I knew him.)
So, I looked at his paper and he had a leader column (often known as an editorial in lay terms) called Ed Lines. We journalists so like our little puns. Shame he wasn’t called Ed/Edward, would have been even better.
I groaned. I mean I really, really groaned. His column was controversy and provocative personified. He made Julie Birchill look like Little Miss Muffet. He was as bad as my dad!
We had moans against women, against bureaucracy, against the government, the council, political parties, against Islam. All done with that fake, jokey, macho, witty Yorkshire sense of humour. Except, it’s no longer my Yorkshire sense of humour.
So, my former dear colleague wrote a book about the impact of Islam on our home town, or rather the way Islam had taken over our home town.
Now, there are more than a few issues here.
Writing as a journalist is one thing. It does not mean we can write books. Engaging interest in a news report and telling the news as quickly as possible is not the same technique that is needed for writing longer pieces of work.
If you look at Fielding’s Bridget Jones, it is written in typical journalese, hence the diary format. For the most part, it is short snappy (if boring) prose.
Lockwood’s book on the other hand (why do I use surnames for people I once knew and first names for those I’ve never met?) is a bizarre mix of journalese and over-descriptive prose.
My worry with The Islamic Republic of Dewsbury, is that it serves to exacerbate the rift.
The truth, whether we like it or not, is that Islam has become a part of the British community. Even more than 30 years ago, when I was reporting, there were endless applications to the planning committee to use a terrace house for a Muslim school for girls. Because, state schools weren’t good enough.
But Islam isn’t the only reason our proud West Riding towns went into decline. Thatcher didn’t exactly help. When I came back from Australia in the mid 80s I was horrified at the signs of economic downturn. I was going to say poverty, but that wasn’t right.
It was, however, when looking in the windows of butchers’ shops, seeing two pork chops and half a pound of mince when previously, the windows would have been full, expecting to sell all their produce, that I realised something had gone wrong.
Lockwood mentions the Heavy Woollen District. Even one of our local bus companies was named after it. We lived in the world of shoddy, but also the rather more upmarket mills, eg cashmere.
But rag picking was looked down on, and Asians were brought into the area in the 50s to work in mills, just as they were used as bus conductors because white people didn’t want to do that. Who wants that sort of job? My father worked in rags for a while, but, not as a picker. I was frightened of the women in the mill down the street. When I walked to the bus stop in my posh school uniform, they would call out raucous abuse. Never mind the kids from the local comprehensive who threatened me.
Increasingly I used the bus stop up the road, and flirted with two boys going to school in the opposite direction.
The days of the Dewsbury town clerk with his personalised number plate (TC) were long gone in my infancy (my father bought the town clerk’s car and received endless driving acknowledgements because they didn’t realise he wasn’t the TC). So why is Lockwood, six months my senior and born in the same maternity hospital, dragging up the past so nostalgically?
None of us can go back.
My worry is that his references to ‘the race industry’, to ‘goose-stepping community cohesion zealots’, not to mention his point about the promotion of single motherhood on benefits, and his vilification of ‘Political Correct’, managers and Marxists, oh and ‘the liberal establishment’ and the ‘loony left’, just merely serve to antagonise.
As we both say, the process of Asian immigration started before we were born. When my mother was teaching, she worked in an Irish Catholic area. When I was reporting, it had become a Pakistani area. Batley Carr, to be specific. I trudged around it on foot, I knew every street. And then I walked up to Mount (not so) Pleasant. The doors were closed. The white reporter was unwelcome.
My father was as racist as they come. But he would happily chat with Afro-Caribbeans in London about cricket. And, back to Dewsbury, when he thought another market stallholder was being victimised (Pakistani), he stood up for him.
Danny mentions our market in his book, it was a classical melting pot. We had the Jews who were working Shabbat and buying a slice of boiled ham from us for a sandwich, and we had Pakistanis selling clothes on the other side of us. As president of the market traders association, my dad tried to fight for the rights of stallholders. Regardless of race or religion.
In the intro chapters of his book, Danny (yeah, I know I’ve slipped into his first name), mentions places I knew and walked, and drunk at. The Scarborough. Great pub serving excellent Tetley’s beer. The scene of Muslim violence, when the whole of the area had become increasingly occupied by Asians. We would go there for a Sunday lunchtime beer. It was a good pub. No need for such an attack on people or property.
It’s no longer my town. It hasn’t been for years. I’m not sure why Danny has written about it. Maybe to get it out of his system or make money? It was certainly no longer what I wanted, so no way would I move back there after travelling around the world.
Hell’s teeth, even my parents left!
Hey Danny, send me a review copy… But you can read the preview on Amazon. You can read his Ed Lines at The Press. It may even suit some of you.
How much of his view however, is skewed by his wish for the past (which I would probably share), and his dislike and mistrust of people from another race and religion. Where does race and religion end?
PS, he used to have hair when I knew him. He was quite nice looking.
All credits for photos to whoever took them that I took from wiki :) mine not currently available.
And Danny darling, this is just my opinion after all. Just what the right thinking person in the street thinks. So please don’t take me to the high court :)